Relates how Americans build, from youth throughout life, by using their ingenuity not only in technological advancement but in everyday efforts by everyone.
Producer Handy (Jam) OrganizationSponsor Chevrolet Division, General Motors CorporationAudio/Visual sound, color
Many stock shots to be logged.
Direction: Walter Koste, Donald Livingston, John Thiele, Jean Yarbrough. Script: W.F. Banes, Doane Hoag. Camera: Leonard Clairmont, Roger Fenimore, Pierre Mols, Robert Tavernier, Frank Vail. Settings: Eugene Kelly, Charles Nasca. Sound: Daniel Mandlebaum. Narration: Marvin Miller. Co-ordination: David Seago. Music: Samuel Benavie, James Higgins, Milton Weinstein. Editing: Vince Herman, Harold Rogers.
May 8, 2014
American Maker review
During the 1950's the Chevrolet Division of General Motors contracted with the Detroit based Jam Handy Film Production Company to make a series of ten minute training films for their dealers. Beginning in 1951, Jam Handy was contracted to make a series of glossy Technicolor films, for general distribution. They would be mostly seen in schools, and before the advent of electronic media, several hundred prints would be made for distribution. By writing a letter to the sponsoring organization, one could borrow a 16mm print free of charge, only pay the return shipping. The first film was AMERICAN HARVEST, made in 1951. It was revised twice to reflect newer automobile models. AMERICAN MAKER, produced in 1960, was produced as a result of the coming of cheap imports, most of which were coming from postwar Japan. So the narrator stresses the importance of buying American made products. The film shows a glossy look at the products made and people living in the United States. You will not see one minority individual in this film or any of the others that were made. Everything is colorful and utopian. It was like living in the perfect society. AMERICAN MAKER depicts the creating and importance of standardized parts and mass production, enabling the price to go down on products. The final half of the film depicts the manufacturing of Chevrolets. What is so remarkable, as the narrator states, that there can be thousands of variables on a car, while being mass produced. While the "red" wheels and engine are assembled on a chassis, the matching "red" car body is working its way over from a location far away from the assembly point on the line.
On top of the content, the narrator was well known Marvin Miller, an actor, and broadcaster. His voice is heard in Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY and is the narrator on UPA's GERALD McBOING BOING. AMERICAN MAKER prints were made by Technicolor, and an original musical score was prepared for the film. The film reflects a long gone art of producing industrial documentaries and when corporations were willing to spend a great deal of money on them.
By 1973, after 13 years of distribution, and showing its age, AMERICAN MAKER was finally withdrawn from general distribution. That included AMERICAN HARVEST, AMERICAN ENGINEER, AMERICAN LOOK and AMERICAN THRIFT (which had been long gone). This reviewer, when he found out, contacted Jam Handy Distribution if he could have prints that were discontinued. Many months passed after the request, and in May 1973, they were sent to his college address. More than 40 years have passed, and the films are still a part of my collection. They, and the many other films that are owned, reflect a piece of our industrial heritage.